Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream: A review

After the huge success of last year’s Hamlet Cambridge University European Theatre Group is again on tour with its new play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably one of the most performed Shakespearean plays and especially popular with school- and amateur theatres, but there was nothing amateur about this adaptation.

The play is a mix between the original adaptation and a modern one; modern for some details, for instance the use of mobile phones in the beginning, the recent costumes (i.e. white summer dresses) and the monochrome set with its iron trestle. However the play is really close to the original version. The plot takes place in Athens and there is no change to the story. The use of Shakespearean English especially reinforces this feeling. Despite this mix, both versions go well together and the audience doesn’t even notice the contrast.

The success of this adaptation is due to the cast’s great performance. Even though all of the actors are students, they filled the room completely with their presence. Their voice, gestures and facial play were so elaborate that even without understanding the text properly, everybody understood the plot. Although the entire cast played exceedingly well, the actors who played Hermia and Nick Bottom were especially outstanding. They combined seriousness and comedy in their play and managed to create an atmosphere of mystery. On top of these great performances we mustn’t forget the physical efforts of the cast. At one moment during the play each actor hung upside down at least once from the trestle and danced headfirst at the same time. Whilst discussing the performance, we also have to mention the fact that every actor had to play two parts; one of an Athenian and one of a fairy. Although this has caused much confusion in another adaptation of a Shakespearean play (Macbeth by Cheek and Jowl) the director of this production managed to make a clear distinction. He simply used two different wardrobes; the Athenians wore mostly white whereas the fairies were dressed in black.

Another point worth mentioning is the setting. Despite a meagre stage setting, existing of one trestle, this set rather reinforced the mysterious feeling that the actors promoted so well. The trestle was used to symbolize the palace, the woods and the stand. However, this multiple use didn’t confuse the audience. The different costumes of the characters helped to identify the situations, which were accompanied with different styles of music and lighting effects.

In summary it may be said that this adaptation is a great success. The performances of the actors were outstanding and I personally think that they could steal the show from quite a few Hollywood stars. In addition, the use of music, lighting effects and the stage setting perfect the play. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has showed, contrary to my former opinion, that a combination of modern and original elements is possible and I can only advise everybody to go and see this play.

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